Tutors and Tutorial Etiquette

The tutorial should be a mutual exploration of a topic. It is not a one-way transaction; you are not there to be spoon-fed. You should expect your tutor to provide some feedback on the content and structuring of your essay, but you should not let the initiative lie always with him/her. You should always go into the tutorial with an agenda of problems you feel need discussing. If you feel a little intimidated by the set-up–and perhaps some of you will at first—then write down the things you want to discuss before you go in. You should pay careful attention to the issues the tutor raises with you and the range of alternative approaches he/she suggests. By all means take notes during the tutorial, but not at the expense of your own intellectual engagement. If you do not take notes during the tutorial, then write down what you have learned immediately the tutorial is over. Make sure that your notes are clear, and tidy them up if necessary after the tutorial.

Answers to some of your more detailed questions can be found in the Frequently Asked Questions section below.

Attendance Policy
Students should note that attendance at all tutorials is required. Failure to attend a tutorial may result in a loss of credits. Although tutorials may be rescheduled with the mutual agreement of the student and tutor, all tutorials arranged as part of the academic programme must be completed, including the submission of an essay of 1,500 to 2,000 words at each tutorial—or the problem set equivalent for science students—before the course end date. Students who miss a tutorial without prior authorization from WISC/OSAP and/or the tutor must attend a meeting with a WISC/OSAP academic advisor within five days of the missed tutorial. Failure to attend two consecutive tutorials without a valid reason (e.g. a doctor’s note) will result in the student being referred to his/her home institution for possible disciplinary action including, but not limited to, expulsion from the WISC/OSAP programme and a loss of credits.

Lectures

You may be able to attend some lectures during term-time (Weeks 1-8). Lecture lists are available online—usually as a PDF on the front page of the Oxford faculty website (academic departments are called “faculties” in Oxford). Your tutors will able to offer advice on which lectures are most relevant to your coursework, although you are not confined to lectures in your subject. Attendance at Oxford lectures is not mandatory (lectures are not part of your academic program and will not affect your grade), and Associate Members should always email the lecturer ahead of time to ask permission to attend the lecture.

Libraries

General Information
All Associate Members and Visiting Students will be inducted into the Bodleian Library (the “Bod”) as part of their orientation. The induction is a ceremony by which you are formally admitted as members of the Bod, Students will receive an ID card which will allow them access to most, if not all, of the resources offered by the Bodleian, Oxford University’s central library.

After you begin your studies, you should ask your tutor right away which libraries are the best for the books he or she will assign. All the libraries are decentralized and each has its own admissions policy.

Associate Members may thus be admitted to the faculty (departmental) libraries in most cases. Each such library has its own policies. Normally, as in the Bodleian, borrowing is not permitted.

Your college libraries will offer you free use on the same basis as matriculated students. Borrowing is permitted from your college library.

Given its decentralization, the Bodleian will very likely operate differently than the library at your home university, especially given that beyond your college library, the Bod is largely a collection of reading rooms which contain some shelf material and to which books can be ordered. Remember to be patient, as familiarizing yourself with the Bod can take time. Your college library and each reading room are staffed with very librarians who in the past have always been very helpful to our students; do not be afraid to ask them questions.

In each instance, you should start with the SOLO (“Search Oxford Libraries Online”) websitehttp://solo.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/ — in order to find “that book”.

You will also find this map of the Bodleian Library very useful.

Oxford Single Sign-On (SSO)
The SSO is an authentication system used for accessing Oxford’s subscription e-resources as well as for remote access to all resources which are IP-validated. While Visiting Students are assigned an SSO, Associate Members are not. In cases where an SSO is required to access certain electronic resources (e.g. JSTOR or other electronic journals) Associate Members should use their home university’s subscriptions instead of the SSO. For example, Associate Members may be able to log into their home university’s library website to access and print a journal article that would otherwise be inaccessible due to the lack of an Oxford user name and password.

Internet Access
All students are given Wireless Internet access in the OSAP offices and in their Oxford flats. Associate Members with a Bodleian card will be able to access the internet in the Bodleian reading rooms and in their college libraries. Visiting Students will also have access to the “eduroam” network; more details for connecting to this network are available through the University’s IT website at www.it.ox.ac.uk.

Alternatively, there are a number of public wifi spots available throughout Oxford in pubs, coffee shops, and restaurants.

Frequently Asked Questions

I haven’t heard from my tutors – should I be worried?
There is no need to worry. Your tutors will not expect to hear from you until you have completed academic advising (see your orientation schedule). While some tutors email students before the start of term, most prefer that you make contact with them after a member of the OSAP staff has academically advised you. Your tutorial arrangements are based on tutorial requests you submitted as part of your application. Unless you have been contacted by an OSAP Academic Advisor, you will get your first or second choice for each of the courses you will take this term.

You should email your tutors to introduce yourself after you have had academic advising. Here is a sample email:

Dear Dr Coggins,

I am an OSAP New College Associate Member for the Michaelmas term (I am scheduled to take eight tutorials with you in “Politics and the Media”). I would be pleased to meet at your earliest convenience, although I will be required to attend orientation lectures tomorrow from 2pm to 4pm.

Thank you for agreeing to teach me this term—I look forward to meeting you.

Best wishes,
Rachel

My tutor wants to meet me at a time that conflicts with the orientation schedule – what should I do?
Attendance at all orientation lectures/events is mandatory. OSAP is required to monitor your attendance and record any absences; this information is shared with the British immigration authorities. You should explain this attendance policy to your tutor and politely request a change of time should a conflict arise between a tutorial meeting and an orientation event.

Where will I meet my tutors?
It varies. Some tutors will meet you in their college or department office, while others prefer to meet in the OSAP tutorial rooms. In some cases, a tutor will meet you in his or her home (if they live in central Oxford).

Will my tutors be attached to my Oxford college?
Not necessarily. In fact, it is more common to have a tutor who is affiliated with a different Oxford college (this is also the case with Oxford degree candidates).

How do I address my tutors?
Unless you are invited to do otherwise, you should always address your tutors by their titles (e.g. Professor MacMillan or Dr. Whyte). Note that Oxford makes a distinction between “Professor” and “Dr.”

What is the dress code for tutorials?
There is no “dress code” per se, but smart casual dress is strongly advised. Never wear t-shirts, shorts, flip-flops or baseball caps during tutorials (the British regard the wearing of baseball caps indoors as rude and even insulting).

How long do tutorials last?
Tutorials typically run for one hour but can sometimes last as long as an hour and a half.

What is my tutor looking for?

  • Initiative: how hard have you tried in seeking out books? have you gone beyond the demands of the reading list?
  • Intellectual curiosity: have you asked questions in tutorials? have you shown a willingness to study different types of history? how flexible are you in the face of new approaches/evidence? have you confined yourself narrowly to the demands of the syllabus?
  • Argumentative flair: have you structured your essays well? have you shown an interest in conceptual issues?
  • Fluency: what is the standard of your written English? how wide is your vocabulary?
  • Responsiveness: have you made an effort to implement any advice your tutor may have given you? do you make an effort in tutorials? do you engage with the work of your tutorial partners?
  • Originality: have you made a real effort to engage with the contents of what you have read? have you thought critically about the arguments of the historians?
  • Professionalism: have you been punctual for meetings? have you responded promptly to tutors’ requests for information? have you respected the additional calls on your tutors’ time?
  • Efficiency: how well have you managed the balance between academic and other commitments? have your assignments been completed on time?
  • Team-work: have you contributed constructively in seminars? have you managed to avoid the expression of personal animosities in your academic dealings with your peers?

May I ask my tutor at any point where I stand, grade-wise? Will there be a final exam?
It is not customary in Oxford to ask your tutor directly about your grade. However, you should have a very good sense of “where you stand” based on the extensive feedback you will receive from your tutor at each meeting. While there is no final exam, each tutorial is, in a sense, an oral and written examination. Your final grade will be a cumulative one, taking into account the quality of both your written work and oral performance over the course of the tutorial meetings.

Will I have to buy books?
Not necessarily. Because they are typically assigned reading lists for each weekly tutorial essay, Oxford undergraduates do not rely on one or two standard textbooks for each course. Instead, they borrow books from their college library (and use the Bodleian Library–Oxford University’s reference-only central library) each week according to the reading list assigned by their tutor. If you plan to rely heavily on a particular textbook over the course of the term, you might wish to visit Blackwell’s Bookshop in Broad Street (Oxford’s oldest and largest bookstore where you can buy almost any academic book).

My Bodleian card expires before I leave Oxford, what should I do?
Your Bod card is valid until the end of 8th week (the end of the Oxford term), by which time your tutorial work should be completed. Your OSAP housing, however, is available for a further two weeks or so (check the end date on your acceptance letter). You may wish to return home early following your final tutorial in 8th Week, or you may stay in Oxford until your housing expires. Some students travel after the end of term, storing most of their luggage (the heavier pieces they don’t wish to drag around Europe with them) in their Oxford room. If you need to extend your Bodleian access for any reason, you can pay the Bodleian Admissions Office directly for a new card (about £55 per week).

Where can I print my tutorial essays?
You will have printing privileges in your Oxford college and in the OSAP office. Most colleges and the Bodleian charge  per page for printing, while OSAP offers free printing in our computer foyer (9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday). Should you need to print outside of OSAP office hours, please use the facilities in your college or the Bodleian.

Sections of this page are taken from the Student Survival Kit, by Dr Ian Archer, Fellow in History, Keble College, and are reproduced here with the kind permission of Dr Archer.

You are also encouraged to consult the Oxford Centre for Higher Education Policy Studies (OxCHEPS) Occasional Paper No. 1, The Oxford Tutorial, by Dr David Palfreyman, MA MBA, LLB, Bursar and Fellow, New College, which is accessible online for free.

Attendance Policy

Students should note that attendance at all tutorials is required. Failure to attend a tutorial may result in a loss of credits. Although tutorials may be rescheduled with the mutual agreement of the student and tutor, all tutorials arranged as part of the academic programme must be completed, including the submission of an essay of 1,500 to 2,000 words at each tutorial—or the problem set equivalent for science students—before the course end date. Students who miss a tutorial without prior authorization from OSAP and/or the tutor must attend a meeting with an OSAP academic advisor within five days of the missed tutorial. Failure to attend two consecutive tutorials without a valid reason (e.g. a doctor’s note) will result in the student being referred to his/her home institution for possible disciplinary action including, but not limited to, expulsion from the OSAP programme and a loss of credits.

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